Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beyond Baby Tenderlove, revisited.

The Christmas before I turned five, my younger sister and I both asked for only one toy: Baby Tenderlove. The name alone evoked every maternal sentiment in our chubby little preschool bodies. More than anything else we could imagine, we longed to snuggle that sweet baby doll. Christmas morning we were thrilled as we each opened our very own Baby Tenderlove, ready to cuddle, feed and rock to sleep!

I did not feel such maternal yearnings again until I was pregnant with my first child. As the months of expectancy went by, I found myself longing once again for Baby Tenderlove—not the plastic doll, but my own fleshy baby that I could dote on and love the way I had when I was little. Dreams of quiet snuggling, humming lullabies, rocking to sleep, and tranquil tenderness were ever present.

The baby came and suddenly I woke up. Yes, there were many serene moments with my new, very real Baby Tenderlove, but my updated model also included Baby CriesAllNight and Baby HurtsToNurse. Then I discovered Baby MakesAMess, who generated more laundry than his parents combined.  There was also the bath-time model: Baby SlipperyWhenWet, which came with instructions, “hold on for dear life!”) Then the upgrades arrived: Baby ProjectileVomit, and Baby ExplodingDiaper. 

If I were writing a marketing campaign for a newborn, it would boast: “Eight toys in one...some of them frightening and dangerous!” And, “Providing even the wildest thrill-seeker with a heart-pounding emotional roller-coaster!”

But it gets better. Because Baby Tenderlove also grows. He morphs into such creatures as Toddler DestructoUnit and Kid NeverEverMind. Later there comes Tween Transformer...and the most exciting, TeenageMutantNinjaHormones.

I’m not the only one who was disillusioned in this scenario. I’m sure Baby Tenderlove expected to be born to Mama Tenderlove. Yes, I expected to BE Mama Tenderlove: a cross between Caroline Ingalls and Maria von Trapp. Instead, sometimes I was Wicked Stepmama (“push buttons to hear her wretched voice!), and often DistractedWorkingMama (“bang head on counter to get her attention!”).

But this new Baby Tenderlove also came with accessories: a whole other toy box called Serendipity...sweet, unexpected surprises. I was not prepared for the wonderfulness that is Baby HeavenScent. Ah, what compares to burying your nose in the neck of a newborn! I was completely caught off guard, over and over again, by Baby GiggleMagic. A baby’s belly laugh is like bells from heaven!

And now, when I see our son attending college, tall, confident and handsome, with an astronomic GPA; our daughter in the throes of high school, gathering an ever-widening circle of friends, wrangling signs of first romance; and our youngest running off the lacrosse field, all sweat and smiles, yet sitting close enough to touch when we read together at night—when I step back and look past the messy details, one salient emotion surfaces. I can only describe it as: tender love.

This piece is a new-and-improved update of my most popular blog post of all time, written for Mother's Day four years ago. Last month it was chosen to be presented at The Listen To Your Mother Show 2014.

The gorgeous photos of our kids were Mother's Day gifts to me from my talented husband, in 2000 and 2013, respectively.

1 comment:

Connie Sokol said...

Love this! You have absolutely beautiful prose--love to read it. Thanks for sharing this:) Connie